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St. Petersburg Historic YMCA | Photo © 2014 Bullet, www.abandonedfl.com

St. Petersburg YMCA Building

Location Class:
Built: 1927 | Abandoned: 1991
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: David Bulit

St. Petersburg YMCA Building

The St. Petersburg chapter of the YMCA was organized in June 1920. The YMCA building located downtown was constructed in 1927 with the help of $550,000 in community donations.

The building was designed by University of Minnesota Professor Clarence Brown and local architect Archie Gale Parish. Parish had also designed many other buildings in St. Petersburg including First Presbyterian Church, Christ United Methodist Church, Mound Park Hospital, Jordan Park Housing Project, Palladium Theater, and the administration building of St. Petersburg Junior College. Edward S. Moore and Sons served as contractors who had also built the St. Pete Times Building and the Coast Guard Air Station.

Postcard depicting the historic YMCA building

Designed in a Mediterranean Revival style, it stands four stories tall with a basement and a fifth-story tower. The style is expressed with arched windows and doorways, wreathed columns, balconettes trimmed with ornamental iron railings, and varied rooflines with barrel tile. The decorative swimming pool is one of the more notable features. Along the east wall of the pool is a fountain memorializing David S. Welch, who donated $20,000 to the YMCA to have the pool built. Many of the decorative Spanish tiles in and around the building were imported from Seville, Spain.

The YMCA offered facilities for boxing, wrestling, wrestling, and baseball. A cafeteria and pool were located in the basement. The gym and suspended jogging track were on the 1st floor, above the pool area. Offices and public rooms were located on the 1st and 2nd floors and 54 dormitory rooms provided affordable lodging on the 3rd and 4th floors.

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Children taking swimming lessons in the building’s swimming pool


The residential program ceased operations in 1989 and the entire club relocated to a new facility in 2001. The YMCA building was designated a historic landmark of St. Petersburg in 1991. The building was purchased in 2004 by an investment group with plans to convert the building into condos. After demolishing much of the interior, the project was abandoned leaving the building empty. It was eventually put up for sale.

Eventually, the YMCA was sold to South Florida developer Nick Ekonomou in November 2015. He plans to convert the building into a boutique hotel and event venue and estimates the renovation to cost around $6 million. He also planned to erect a nine-story luxury apartment complex and car garage behind the building. Though according to recent interviews, those plans seem to change and grow over time.

As of December 2016, multiple code violations were issued for graffiti, overgrowth, and debris, an expired roof permit, and disrepair of its walls, paint, and windows. Ekonomou has said that it’s frustrating because homeless people keep climbing the walls and breaking in, leaving piles of excrement inside. He had promised though to have the roof repaired in two months’ time and assured the public that the project will be completed in time.

St. Petersburg YMCA
A postcard featuring a colored image of the Jenkins Orphanage Band playing at the YMCA Building in St. Petersburg, Fla. Jenkins Orphanage was established in 1891 by Rev. Daniel Joseph Jenkins in Charleston, South Carolina. Jenkins was a businessman and Baptist minister who encountered street children and decided to organize an orphanage for young African Americans.

The orphanage took in donations of musical instruments and Jenkins hired two local Charleston musicians — P.M. “Hatsie” Logan and Francis Eugene Mikell — to tutor the children in music. Upon its establishment, it became the only black instrumental group organized in South Carolina. The band’s debut was on the streets of Charleston with the permission of the mayor, police chief, and Chamber of Commerce. The Jenkins Orphanage Band, wearing discarded Citadel uniforms, performed throughout the United States and even toured England raising money for the support of the orphanage. It played in inaugural parades of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft. It appeared at the St. Louis Exposition and the Anglo-American Exposition in 1914. It toured the United States from coast to coast and played in Paris, Berlin, Rome, London, and Vienna. As many as five bands were on tour during the 1920s. The band ceased to exist in the 1980s.

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David Bulit is a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. He has published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and continues to advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. His work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of his work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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